Education that is Multicultural: Tea and Family

Blog # 8

January 8, 2017

This blog is authored by Study Abroad in India student Wendy Barrales who is a PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center, and a founding teacher at Brooklyn Emerging Leaders Academy.

Icebergs are often underestimated in size. What is visible to the eye is only a small part of an immense structure. Culture is similarly misunderstood. We assume that our knowledge of tangible outputs--- food, clothes and music--- tell us enough about a particular culture. But just like icebergs, when we dig further and look beyond the surface, we begin to see the complexity and depth of its values and foundation. Prior to arriving in New Delhi, we discussed this idea of culture as a reminder to push our understanding beyond what meets the eye. At yesterday's afternoon tea with Professor Gupta's family, we got to see below the iceberg and soaked in the values embedded within family.

Unlike British afternoon tea, featuring scones with clotted cream and small cucumber sandwiches, Indian tea time is vibrant and flavorful. The color and smells wafting from the table were intoxicating as we impatiently waited to try some pohe (a flattened rice with turmeric green peas and fresh cilantro). We had an incredible selection of samosas and bread pakoras accompanied with spiral orange sweet jalebis and white squares of milk based burfi to settle our sweet tooth cravings. Not only were we expanding our understanding of Indian cuisine, but we were also part of a beautiful moment of family togetherness.

As we sipped tea, Professor Gupta's auntie shared a wealth of knowledge from her experience within the field of education. She has a sharp sense of humor and infectious energy causing all of us to gravitate towards her. Two of our classmates wore traditional Indian saris and she gave us a small description on the traditional clothing for various parts of India. Lastly, we shared a few laughs about the complicated relationships we have with our mothers, a topic of conversation that is relatable and universal to us all.

The warmth we felt yesterday provided us all with a comforting sense of familiarity despite being miles from home. Our understanding of the culture iceberg was broadened that day. Not only did we see how values play out within a family setting, we were also able to see how similar and alike our cultures can be. There are some things in the world that transcend countries and cultures, and the warmth we felt in that home was a universal feeling of love.

11 responses
I couldnt agree with you more, well written Wendy. I for one will confess that I fell into the typical "tip of the iceberg" portion. I would even teach my students this as well. Not only today's experience but as well as this overall journey has made me realize what is visible to the eye is only a miniture part of a beautiful culture. I agree with what you said, I assumed that my knowledge based on different food, various types of clothing and the numerous types of music sums up what culture is, however that doesnt even scratch the surface of it! When we see an iceberg, the portion which is visible above water is, in reality, only is a miniature piece of a much larger whole. Today in Professors Guptas home, I didnt only see culture, I felt it. I felt the warmness, I felt the love and I felt the overall respect within the household. I cherished speaking to her father, family members and especially her witty auntie, whom I just wanted to steal and bring her back home with me. I even got emotional when leaving the home because sometimes I relalized was that we dont fell this love back at home, everyone is rushing, making sure they get paid, making sure they arn't late for anything, making sure things are clean and things are ready for the following day. We dont sit and enjoy moments together anymore. We are so busy with our everyday lives that we forget the true meaning of fanily. I thank the professor from the bottom of my heart for letting us into her home.
Wonderful Wendy! It's so easy for us just to look at the tip of the ice burg and think we know the culture. Sitting around professor Gupta's family and hearing about their experiences in education in India was a wonderful experience! Having home cooked India food was also a different experience which gave us insight on family traditions in India as well!
Well said Wendy!! As you said it, I was one of those two ladies who wore a Sari. Honestly, being able to wear it, make me look deeper than just the clothes I was wearing. And like Jennifer said I was able to feel it is culture in a deeper level. Something I was also able to experience is the different roles that each family plays out. One thing is talking about it, and another is actually being able to experience it. I felt each one roles in the family and how caring each member of the family is toward each other. Great experience!
Absolutely, the warmth in Prof. Gupta's home was a feeling I miss from being away from home. It was a pleasure to understand the feeling of your home and you and your family felt was what connected you all, while being so far away from Home.
Living in a hotel room for couple of weeks felt normal until we visited Professor Gupta's home. The hospitality, the conversation, and the setting in general made us miss our homes even more. However, we still appreciated the hospitality. As we walked out to head back to our hotels, some of us expressed how much we missed being in a real home. This was due to the comfort and the interesting conversations we held with Professor Gupta's family. Mingling with her family and talking and seeing her father's bird collection was priceless. I felt like home away from home.
I have to thank Professor Gupta and her family for welcoming all of us into her home. The hospitality we were treated with was extremely comforting.
After a week of being in India, I felt home sick. The more I spoke to my parents on the phone, the more I missed them. As I sat in Professor Gupta's house, I felt as if I was truly at home. I no longer felt empty being in India. The saying goes "a house is made of bricks and stone but only love can make a home." The hospitality and comfort was very fulfilling. I think everyone in the room felt as if we were all family. Many thanks to Professor Gupta for inviting us over for tea and allowing us to see her in a different environment.
Along with the welcomed warmth, and chance to peek into family life, I appreciated the Professor's auntie candid disclosure regarding English Language Learners in India - that much of the English is taught by teachers, who are not native speakers and don't speak English well. As a result, a phenomenon not unlike telephone occurs. This is really good to keep in the back of my mind with future immigrant students - that their capacity to learn/speak well is there but perhaps there English is simply a reflection of what they were taught.
The warmth and love we all experienced I am sure made us all head back to our hotels to call our family members! During our time in India what we all needed was some family love. Calling our parents but having to hang up because of time differences, class, and work has definitely been hard on some of us. Professor Gupta's family welcomed us in like we were one of their own and it was beautiful. It allowed the ridding of that homesickness.
During the entire trip leading up to this day I never felt homesick. I kept myself busy being a student and a tourist, I was comfortable in my hotel room, and I never felt lonely because I had my friends in the rooms beside mine. Once we all arrived at Professor Gupta's childhood home my feelings completely changed. Seeing the professor's family bond made me long for my parents back in the States, and the rest of my family in Honduras. I knew how important family is in Indian culture. Immediately, I saw and felt the love and respect they have for one another. I honestly did not want to leave because I was trying to soak up all of the emotion I could possibly take with me. from great conversations to seeing Professor Gupta's father's love birds, it was a very gratifying experience. I have not experienced such a strong family bond in quite a long time, and it made me realize that it does exist, and it is achievable if one works hard to obtain it. Once again. I would like to thank Professor Gupta for inviting us into her home and sharing a snippet of her personal life with the group.
I was very grateful to be welcomed into Professor Gupta's childhood home. I had never been into an authentic Indian home during my time in India and it was great to see the decor of a typical home in India. The hospitality and warmth of Professor Gupta's family really spoke to everything I had heard about the special treatment of guests in India. At two different points in the evening, while I was eating outside with a few other students, and Professor Gupta's father and her nephew came out to check on us and pleasantly chat. It was such a small gesture but really made me feel welcomed and important.